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The logo of the Federal administration of <a href="/content/Switzerland" style="color:blue">Switzerland</a>, in the <a href="/content/Languages_of_Switzerland" style="color:blue">four national languages</a>.
The logo of the Federal administration of Switzerland, in the four national languages.

The federal administration of Switzerland (German: Bundesverwaltung, French: Administration fédérale, Italian: Amministrazione federale, Romansh: Tribunal administrativ federal ) is the ensemble of agencies that constitute, together with the Swiss Federal Council, the executive branch of the Swiss federal authorities. The administration is charged with executing federal law and preparing draft laws and policy for the Federal Council and the Federal Assembly.[1]

The administration consists of seven federal departments and the Federal Chancellery. The departments are roughly equivalent to the ministries of other states, but their scope is generally broader. Each department consists of several federal offices, which are headed by a director, and of other agencies. The much smaller Federal Chancellery, headed by the Federal Chancellor, operates as an eighth department in most respects.

Federal Council

The administration in its entirety is directed by the Swiss Federal Council,[2] and the Federal Council and the administration are subject to parliamentary oversight by the Federal Assembly. Each member of the Federal Council is also, in his or her individual capacity, the head of one of the seven departments.[2] The Federal Council has the sole authority to decide on the size and composition of the departments, and to make all executive decisions that are not delegated by law to an individual department, or to the Chancellery. The Council also decides which department its members are appointed to lead, although it is customary that Councillors choose their preferred department in order of seniority.

The absence of hierarchic leadership within the Council has caused the departments to acquire a very considerable autonomy, to the extent that the federal executive has been characterised as "seven co-existing departmental governments."[2]


From 1954 to 1990, roughly two percent of Switzerland's resident population were federal employees. This percentage has since declined due to army cutbacks and the partial privatisation of federal enterprises such as PTT (now Swisscom and Swiss Post).[3] As of 2008, the Confederation employed some 102,000 people, all but 32,000 of which were working for federal enterprises such as the Post and the Swiss Federal Railways.[3]


After the founding of the Swiss federal state in 1848, the Federal Council and its handful of officials took up residence in the Erlacherhof in Berne.[3] The entire administrative staff consisted of 80 persons in 1849, while the postal service had 2,591 officials and the customs service 409.[3] The first dedicated administrative building, now the western wing of the Bundeshaus, was completed in 1857.[3]

The number of departments and Federal Councillors has been constitutionally fixed at seven since 1848.[4] The number of the departments' subordinate entities, which are constituted by statute – generally as "federal offices" after the 1910s – has grown substantially in step with the expanding role of the state in the 20th century, even though some have been merged or abolished.[4]

A 1964 government reform made the Federal Chancellery into the general staff unit of the Federal Council, and created General Secretariats as departmental staff units.[5] A 1978 statute granted the title of secretary of state to the holders of two (later three) directoral posts whose functions require independent interaction with foreign authorities.[6] Since the 1990s, New Public Management models have been experimentally introduced; twelve offices are now run with autonomous budgets.[1]


The seat of the federal authorities, including almost all of the administration, is Berne. The departments and offices are located in the east and west wings of the Bundeshaus and in numerous buildings in or close to the city center. In the 1990s, some offices were moved to other parts of the country, in part to aid economic development of these regions.[3] Also, some federal authorities have field offices in other cities.

Organisation and responsibilities

The Swiss Federal Chancellery is the staff organisation of the Federal Council and the federal administration. As of 2016, it is headed by Federal Chancellor Walter Thurnherr (CVP/PDC). It is composed of a several sectors, the Federal Chancellery sector headed directly by the incumbent Chancellor, while the other two sectors are led by the Vice-Chancellors, the Federal Council sector by Thomas Helbling, and the information and communications sector by André Simonazzi.[7]

For administrative purposes, the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) is affiliated to the Chancellery. The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner is responsible for the supervision of federal authorities and private bodies with respect to data protection and freedom of information legislation.

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) is Switzerland's ministry of foreign affairs. As of 2015, it is headed by Didier Burkhalter (FDP/PRD). It is composed of the General Secretariat and of the State Secretariat, which in turn is composed of the following directorates and agencies:[8]

  • Directorate of Political Affairs: Led by the Secretary of State, responsible for coordinating Swiss foreign policy and administering Swiss foreign missions.
  • Directorate of Corporate Management (DCM): Manages the Department’s human and financial resources and provides legal advice.
  • Directorate of Public International Law (DPIL): Responsible for the study and application of public international law.
  • Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC): Engages in development cooperation and provides humanitarian aid.
  • Protocol section: Responsible for diplomatic protocol, ceremony and precedence.
  • Integration office: Operated jointly with the FDEA and responsible for coordinating Switzerland’s policy on Europe.
  • Presence Switzerland: Responsible for promoting Switzerland abroad.

The Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) is Switzerland's ministry of the Interior. As of 2015, it is headed by Alain Berset (SP/PS). It is composed of the following offices:[9]

The following independent authorities are affiliated to the FDHA for administrative purposes:

The Federal Department of Justice and Police is Switzerland's ministry of justice. As of 2015, it is headed by Simonetta Sommaruga (SP/PS). It is composed of the following offices and institutes:[10]

The following independent authorities are affiliated to the FDJP for administrative purposes:

  • Federal Gaming Board (FGB): Regulates casinos and enforces Swiss gambling law (except lotteries, which are regulated by the cantons).
  • Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG): Criminal prosecuting authority with respect to crimes subject to federal jurisdiction, led by the Attorney General of Switzerland.

The Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) is Switzerland's ministry of defence. As of 2016, is headed by Guy Parmelin (SVP/UDC). It is composed of the following departmental sectors:[11]

  • Defence / Armed Forces sector: Swiss Armed Forces headquarters and staff, Land Forces, Air Force, Armed Forces Logistics Organisation (AFLO), Armed Forces Command Support Organisation (AFCSO).
  • Civil Protection sector: Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP), responsible for the coordination of the civil protection services of the cantons and municipalities. Operates the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) and the Spiez Laboratory, which is responsible for weapons of mass destruction research and protection.
  • Sport sector: Federal Office of Sport (FOSPO), responsible for sport policy, the National Youth Sports Centre Tenero and the Youth and Sport organisation.
  • armasuisse sector: Responsible for armaments procurement, technology and research.
  • Federal Office of Topography (swisstopo), which compiles and manages geographical reference data and maps.

The following services are also part of the DDPS:

  • General Secretariat
  • Office of the Military Attorney General: The military prosecutor's office.
  • Strategic Intelligence Service (SIS): Switzerland’s foreign intelligence service.
  • Directorate for Security Policy (DSP): Responsible for strategy development, defence and procurement policy, arms control and disarmament policy.

The Federal Department of Finance is Switzerland's ministry of finance. As of 2016, it is headed by Ueli Maurer (SVP/UDC). It is composed of the following offices:[12]

  • General Secretariat, including the Federal Strategy Unit for IT (FSUIT).
  • Federal Finance Administration (FFA): Responsible for the budget, financial planning, financial policy, the federal treasury and financial equalisation between the Confederation and the cantons. Operates the federal mint.
  • Federal Office of Personnel (FOPER): Responsible for human resources management, personnel policy and personnel training.
  • Federal Tax Administration (FTA): Responsible for federal revenue collection and the application of federal tax laws in the cantons.
  • Federal Customs Administration (FCA): Responsible for monitoring the import, export and transit of goods, collecting customs duties, traffic charges and taxes. Operates the Swiss Border Guard, which carries out border police duties.
  • Swiss Alcohol Board (SAB): Regulates the alcohol market.
  • Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication (FOITT): Provides IT services for the federal administration.
  • Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics (FBL): Responsible for property management, central procurement of non-durable goods, federal publications and the production of the Swiss passport.

The following independent authorities are affiliated to the FDF for administrative purposes:

  • Swiss Federal Audit Office (SFAO): The federal government audit office. Examines accounting practices and verifies the proper and efficient use of resources by the administration, other public service institutions and subsidy recipients.
  • Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA): Regulates banks, insurances, securities dealers, investment funds and stock exchanges, as well as the disclosure of shareholding interests, public takeover bids and mortgage lenders.
  • Federal Pension Fund (PUBLICA): Provides insurance coverage to employees of the federal administration, the other branches of the federal government and associated organisations.

The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) is Switzerland's ministry of the economy. As of 2015, it is headed by Johann Schneider-Ammann (FDP.The Liberals). It is composed of the following offices:[13]

The following independent authorities are affiliated to the FDEA for administrative purposes:

  • Price Supervisor: Price ombudsman and responsible for the supervision of regulated prices.
  • Competition Commission: Swiss competition regulator.
  • Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET): Provides training for vocational education professionals.

As of 2015, the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) is headed by Doris Leuthard (CVP/PDC). It is composed of the following offices:[14]

  • General Secretariat
  • Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE): Coordinates area planning between the federal agencies, the cantons and the municipalities.
  • Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN): Responsible for matters of the environment, including the protection of plants and animals and the protection against noise, air pollution or natural hazards.
  • Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA): Regulates civil aviation.
  • Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM): Regulates radio and TV stations, notably the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Federal Office of Energy (FOE): Responsible for the provision of electrical energy at the federal level, as well as for the supervision of dams.
  • Federal Office of Transport (FOT): Responsible for public transport at the federal level, including the development of the federal rail network and navigation on the Rhine.
  • Federal Roads Authority (FEDRO): Responsible for the construction, maintenance and operation of the national highway network.

The following independent authorities are affiliated to the DETEC for administrative purposes:

  • Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB): Technical investigating authority for aircraft accidents.
  • Federal Communications Commission (ComCom): Regulates the telecommunications market, awards service licences, rules on interconnection disputes and approves frequency and numbering plans.
  • Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (ESTI): Responsible for inspecting low and heavy-current electrical installations.
  • Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (HSK): Assesses and monitors security and radiation protection in Swiss nuclear installations.
  • Federal Pipelines Inspectorate (ERI): Responsible for the planning, construction and operation of fuel pipeline systems in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
  • Independent Complaints Authority for Radio and Television: Decides on complaints about radio and television programmes.
  • Investigation Bureau for Railway, Funicular and Boat Accidents: Technical investigating authority for accidents on railways, cableways, funicular railways and ships.
  • PostReg: Regulates the Swiss Post.
  • Railways Arbitration Commission (RACO): Arbitrates in disputes over access to the rail network.
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